Working in Harmony: Chamber Chorus Retreats to Wisdom House

Photo courtesy of Lily Kops

The Wisdom House Retreat Center in Litchfield, CT, was a center for inspiration and activity for Chamber Chorus.

 

The vast amount of talent at Choate, specifically in the arts, is not a secret to anybody in the community. One example of this is the Chamber Chorus, a choral group for which members must audition. The group not only performs for the Choate community, but also travels internationally. On September 23, the group travelled to the Wisdom House Retreat Center in Litchfield, CT on their annual weekend retreat, a highlight for all the members of the Chamber Chorus.

Ms. Alysoun Kegel, Director of the Chamber Chorus, explained that the retreat is designed to be a relaxing escape for the members of Chamber Chorus to bond and work on music. The retreat schedule consists of bonding activities and rehearsal time.

One key component of the trip was the location of the retreat. According to the The Wisdom House Retreat Center website, the Wisdom House Center is an “…interfaith Retreat and Conference Center presenting programs in spirituality education and the arts…,” and it was the perfect retreat location for several reasons. The rehearsal space at Wisdom House Retreat Center is larger than the usual rehearsal space for the Chamber Chorus at Choate, and this allows for work on “alignment and posture, interpreting music through movement, and using more physical rehearsal techniques.” One such exercise was practicing dynamics with a stretchy band.” Ms. Kegel expressed the environment was welcoming and there was a lot of nice outdoor space. “There is a meditative walking labyrinth that we like to sing in.” The retreat received unanimous positive feedback from its participants, despite initial doubts.

Ellie Latham ’18, a new member of the Chamber Chorus, was skeptical at first, but ended up having many positive memories at the camp. She commented, “I was really surprised; I am a skeptic of retreats, but I did come away bonded.” She then shared an amusing anecdote of a bonding moment between her and the other members. “We played the human knot game but the other group actually succeeded in getting out, but we were just standing there trapped in 90 degrees, sweating all over each other and making zero progress. It was bonding and it was really fun.”

Coming into the retreat, Jana Godbole ’19, another new Chamber Chorus member, was excited but apprehensive, as she did not know many of her peer members in the group. She reminisced on the fun traditions, the joy of just running around and playing games and the late night talks and card games with the female Chamber Chorus Members, “I honestly think that now I can call a lot more people in Chamber Chorus my friends.” Her singing was impacted as well, “I think I learned how to sing with a tired voice,” and she elaborated that this an important t skill to have as a singer at Choate. “I also think that since the group is smaller, my breath and sustaining notes have gotten better.”

Not only did the trip make an impact on the newest members of the group, the trip was also a positive experience for returners. Max Patel ’19 articulated his experience, “We rehearsed and played games and got to know each other. A lot of the returning Chamber Chorus members were close and we were trying to incorporate the new kids. And I think we did that through a series of games and rehearsals.”

The Chamber Chorus retreat is a success annually, and the members of the Chamber Chorus and Ms. Kegel agreed that this year was no exception to the norm: “Usually when we come back from the retreat, we have achieved a new level of expressive music-making, the new singers feel like they are an important part of the group, we have a better understanding of how to rehearse together, and everyone feels more connected.”

 

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